Next October, Brazilians will find a new type of nutritional label on some food products: a magnifying glass that shows whether the food is high in sodium, sugar or saturated fat. This is the nutrition label on the front of the package or front of the package (FoP). In 2020, Anvisa (National Agency for Health Supervision) approved the magnifying glass as a FoP label design.
A study conducted by the Faculdade de Saúde Pública (FSP) at the USP (University of Sao Paulo) and Idec (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection) compared consumer behavior and perceptions regarding the design proposed by Anvisa and the warning triangle label, a model that was developed by Idec in partnership with information designers from UFPR (Federal University of Paraná).
In tests, Anvisa’s design showed something better in reducing consumer purchasing intentions. In most other criteria, however, the warning triangle was better – for example, in helping the consumer identify the healthier of the two products. “We wanted to gather evidence and really see how Anvis’s proposal behaves compared to the warning triangle,” explains Jornal to USP researcher Neha Khandpur, from the Department of Nutrition at the FSP, stressing the need for future studies for more accurate results. . “There could be a better option for Anvis to choose. But as we have seen some positive aspects of the new label in our study, we are cautiously optimistic,” he added.
Khandpur, who is a member of the Núcleo de Pesquisas Epidemiológicas em Nutrição e Saúde (Nupens), is the lead author of the article A Comparative Assessment of Two Different Nutritional Label Designs on the Front of the Pack: A Randomized Experiment in Brazil. Published in a journal PLOS ONEwhose co-authors are Laís Amaral Mais, a food researcher at Idec, and Ana Paula Bortoletto Martins, a postdoctoral fellow at FSP.
Packing front (FoP)
Oh front of the package (FoP) is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) because it emphasizes the main nutritional information of products, putting them on the front of the package. The visibility given to this information helps the consumer to identify ingredients that may interfere with the purchase choice.
In order for the label to help consumers choose, it is important that FoP meets certain requirements, such as adherence to a minimum size, standardized positioning on packaging, and the use of strict criteria to determine when excess nutrients are displayed.
Frontal nutrition labeling will be mandatory on packaged food in the absence of a consumer who has added sugars, saturated fats or sodium in amounts equal to or greater than the limits defined by Anvis.
About 1,300 people from 101 Brazilian cities participated in a randomized controlled trial conducted in October 2019 – the year in which the label was proposed – with trained interviewers face to face. “This is a very powerful study design that isolates and demonstrates the causal effect of FoP, its usefulness, how much consumers understand it and how it affects purchasing intentions,” explains Neha. Khandpur.
Participants were divided into two groups. The first was presented with products bearing the warning label, and the second with the Anvis magnifying glass. Participants in both groups were asked about the effects of these labels, for example, how important information is conveyed on packaging, the usefulness of labels in guiding healthier choices, and how concerned they would be about family children consuming food and beverages with these labels.
They also got acquainted with the different packaging of the product and asked what ingredients it has in excess. At other times, they also had to choose the healthiest product between the same type of food but different brands.
Analyzing the participants’ responses, it was possible to conclude that both designs had similar effects on the transmission of nutrient information, 57% of the triangular label versus 54% recommended by Anvisa.
“The study showed that consumers consider the FoP triangle to be a useful tool that conveys important information and a model that is easier to understand compared to Anvis’s FoP,” it said. Khandpur. This preference for the triangular shape is related to the fact that it is already a common symbol on signposts and signs “caution” or “attention”. On the other hand, Anvisin FoP was better at boosting consumer buying intentions.
The study also found that contrasting black-and-white warnings, the location of the label on the packaging, and the large size of the feature are present in two types of designs that have proven important in attracting consumer attention. Stop it Khandpur adds that this inconsistency in the results, ie the lack of stability in the design performance, cannot yet be explained by the current study.
“It was one of the first studies to compare these two models. It also showed some usefulness of Anvisa’s design for the Brazilian population,” he commented. Khandpur on the importance of publishing an article. According to her, Anvisa revised its design once again after the version was evaluated in the study, although it did not give direct feedback to the researchers. You can access the final guidelines on using this tag at this link.
National food and nutrition policy
The increase in approval as a label in 2020 is part of the National Food and Nutrition Policy, regulated by Anvisa, which seeks to reduce the rate of overweight, diabetes and degenerative diseases associated with eating habits. These diseases are already a problem in the Brazilian scenario. For example, in 2021, more than half of the country’s population was overweight. With the new labeling defined by Anvisa, which should be used as a standard by food companies, it will be easier for consumers to understand what products make, compare foods and thus make healthier choices.
The label, which will be used in October this year, has been controversial since its approval. At the time, Idec considered the model insufficient and proposed the adoption of a triangle model, developed in partnership with information designers from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR).
The triangle model, in addition to being associated with the idea of warning, would constantly appear if more than one ingredient was in excess (sugar, sodium and saturated fats). Unlike what will happen in the model approved by Anvis, in which the magnifying glass will appear only once, no matter how many of these three ingredients are in excess.
Front labels in other countries
In 2016, Chile was the first country to adopt a frontal marking model. The country uses the octagon symbol in black and white, which also refers to the idea of a triangle warning proposed by the UFPR, which was even based on the model used in Chile. A study published in The Lancet has already shown a significant reduction in consumption of products with a Chilean warning. Other Latin American countries, such as Uruguay, Peru, and Mexico, also use the octagon model.